Today I’m featuring 3 questions:
1) How do I pay for health care while traveling?
2) Does “Forget Your Debt” mean you should skip out on your debt?
3) Precisely how do I afford my lifestyle?
#1: HOW DO YOU AFFORD HEALTH CARE WHILE TRAVELING?
In response to a guest post I wrote for Untemplater about why I quit my job to travel the globe, one reader asked:
“What do you do for health care every time you move to each country? Is there a US health care that travels with you? Or do you get the local health care each time?”
I purchased traveler’s health insurance, which mandates — as part of its eligibility requirements — that I must be outside the US or Canada for at least 6 months out of every year. The insurance had a very high deductible, somewhere in the neighborhood of $2,000 or $3,000, so conceptually it was a worst-case-scenario, “if-I-get-hit-by-a-bus” insurance.
That said, health care in many other countries is top-notch and far less expensive than it is in the U.S. My boyfriend and I both received amazing health care in Thailand.
My treatments were routine — I visited the dentist, sat for an eye exam and filled a new contact lens prescription.
His treatment was much more complex. He asked a Thai dentist to extract all his mercury teeth fillings and replace with them with gold fillings — a process that required many, many dentist visits over a two week span. (He hated the idea of having mercury, a toxin, embedded in his teeth.)
This extraction in the U.S. would have cost several thousand dollars. In Bangkok, it cost $400 — literally a fraction of its price here at home.
Many doctors and dentists overseas are fantastic. It’s normal to be scared of the unknown, but this fear might hold you back. Many foreign doctors attend U.S., Australian or British medical schools before returning to their native Thailand, Peru or India.
Low health-care costs abroad have created a large “medical tourism” industry that caters to people who fly overseas specifically for the sake of medical treatment. These aren’t sick or injured travelers; these are Westerners who fly overseas for the sole purpose of finding good-value health care.
As a result, there’s an abundance of international hospitals filled with English-speaking staff.
AWESOME TIP: Want to recognize a sign that a countries’ hospitals hold high international esteem? Look at where the leaders of other nations travel for medical treatment. Many Nepalese diplomats and heads of state helicopter to Bangkok for their medical care.
#2: SHOULD PEOPLE WALK OUT ON THEIR DEBT?
A few weeks ago I proposed the “Forget Your Debt” strategy, which proposes that people stop thinking of themselves as “trapped by debt” and start recognizing their freedom to pursue goals.
That prompted one reader to email me with this question:
Are you encouraging people to walk away from debt… underground mortgages and credit cards? That actually wasn’t clear to me. I was waiting for you to say how you could use the psychological trick of forgetting to pay debt down painlessly.
I was a little unnerved by the post, but then I thought about all the hard working middle class folks who have these kinds of debts… and how they’d benefit from it… and big banks would suffer, slightly. Happy dance!!
I will say, not mentioning the financial consequences on your credit makes it feel like an incomplete piece, like I was unsold on the idea… but only for this reason. Like, what happens to me once I’m wealthier and want to get a business loan to start a bakery or something like that?
Ah, great question. Here’s my reply:
Nope, I didn’t mean that at all. I’m suggesting “Forget Your Debt” as a strategy for paying off your debt.
The “Forget Your Debt” strategy is a mental shift: Stop thinking of yourself as someone trapped in a hole that you desperately need to claw your way out of. Start thinking of yourself as a person — a free person — who wants to build wealth.
Saving money on interest payments (by repaying your loans) is one of many great ways to build wealth. Compare your interest rate to the returns you can achieve by investing your money elsewhere. It’s likely that you’ll decide that repaying your debt in its entirety is what your wealth-building strategy should target first.
Of course, if you have low-interest debt (like a very low-interest student loan, a low-interest mortgage, or a zero-interest payment plan to a hospital), you might strategically decide to make only the minimum payment, so you can invest your money elsewhere.
The mental trick is to shift from thinking about “climbing out of debt” to thinking about “saving as a means to building wealth.”
The debt mindset can make you feel imprisoned. You won’t get very far if your goal is simply to “get to zero.”
The wealth-building mindset can make you like a free agent who has a pro-active goal to build infinite wealth (or a million dollars, or whatever your goal is). Repaying your debt is simply one piece of the bigger picture.
#3: SO — HOW DO YOU AFFORD IT ALL?
I received this email the other day:
I would like to know more about HOW you were able to do what you did. I think it’s fantastic, but the articles I find don’t really go into the details in order for someone else to follow in your footsteps. I assume that’s what your coaching sessions cover.
You mention “following in my footsteps.” I discourage that. I’m here to guide and inspire you to blaze your own path. Don’t follow in anyone’s footsteps — not even mine.
Not everyone shares this vision. Some people love the idea of teaching ski lessons in the Alps or teaching sailing lessons in Hawaii. They don’t share my goal of job-free travel. Other people want a mini-retirement, but think 2 years sounds like a long time to be unemployed.
My readers dream of doing many incredible things: launching a business, adopting 5 babies or retiring at 50.
So follow your own path — don’t follow mine. I’m just here to guide and inspire; the vision comes from within you.
That said, here’s how I achieved my dream of traveling for two years (I ended up on the road for two-and-a-half) without income:
- I worked part-time for 2 years and full-time for 2 years with this SPECIFIC goal at the forefront of my mind during that entire time.
- I saved 15% of my pretax income in a retirement account. Retirement always comes first.
- I lived on $1,000 a month in Boulder, Colo. The rent on my studio apartment was $450 per month, including utilities. Groceries tallied $150. The other $400 went towards my cell phone, doctor’s co-pays, contact lenses, my snowboard, miscellaneous stuff from Target … you know, the stuff of life.
- In the spring, summer and fall, I cancelled my car insurance and bicycled everywhere.
- I didn’t have a pet, even though I wanted one. I didn’t get highlights in my hair, even though I wanted them. I didn’t buy Odwalla Superfood juice, even though I loved it. In short: I sacrificed ‘small’ indulgences.
- I didn’t have a television or internet. In fact, I didn’t even have a computer. I used the computer at work for personal errands — my boss didn’t mind because I stayed late and did it on my “own time.”
- I worked a second job in the evenings. In the beginning, I delivered newspapers. That’s right: I would write for the newspaper during the day, and deliver the newspaper at night. Later, I moved onto writing freelance articles for magazines.
Here’s the rub: I don’t recommend this extreme-frugality lifestyle. It’s tough. I did it because I was motivated by a HUGE dream. But if you’re not compelled by a big dream, then that kind of extreme-frugality can create burnout.
Learn How To Escape the 9-5
Get free updates on building wealth and living to the fullest.